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Math Science Games Politics

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita Uses Games To See the Future 134

Posted by timothy
from the shall-we-play-a-game dept.
parallel_prankster writes "Bruce Bueno de Mesquita is a professor of politics at New York University and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University in California. In his new book, The Predictioneer (The Predictioneer's Game in the US), he describes a computer model based on game theory which he — and others — claim can predict the future with remarkable accuracy. The website also has a game page where he provides an online version of the game and information on how to play." The (semi-paywalled; may need to register) New Scientist has a story on de Mesquita, too; a snippet: "Over the past 30 years, Bueno de Mesquita has made thousands of predictions about hundreds of issues from geopolitics to personal problems. Overall, he claims, his hit rate is about 90 per cent."
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Bruce Bueno de Mesquita Uses Games To See the Future

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  • by Forthac4 (836529) <Forthac4@gmail.com> on Friday March 19, 2010 @02:09AM (#31533374)

    I saw an interview with him on The Daily Show and he made mention of the parallel with Seldon.

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Friday March 19, 2010 @02:10AM (#31533376)

    At least sometimes. If I make a thousand predictions (the more they contradict each other, the better) and only publish them AFTER the results are in, I can easily claim that I can predict the future. It's a simple magician's trick. Ask a person to think of a number between 1 and 10 (or pick a card, or whatever), then hand him a sealed envelope telling him you knew he'd pick that number (or hand him an envelope containing the card). You couldn't write it down and give him that envelope after he chose, so you have to be able to predict it, else you could not have written it down before the show, right?

    What you don't hand him are the other envelopes containing the other numbers/cards.

  • Ahmadinejad (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 19, 2010 @02:23AM (#31533444)

    He "predicted" that Ahmadinejad wouldn't be reelected to the presidency of Iran, because he's group had no popular support. We all know how that ended.

  • by BigSlowTarget (325940) on Friday March 19, 2010 @02:33AM (#31533494) Journal

    So I guess he doesn't need funding then? Oh and doesn't have any good causes he feels could benefit from donated earnings?

    As for not predicting the movement of stock markets, if you can predict business decisions you can predict selected market movements. Will XYZ get the contract? Their stock will go up. Will Mr. suchandsuch decide to buy company z? You can bet company Z stock is going to rise. When you make or lose money based on your predictions every prediction is documented - if you're up you're right and if not you're wrong.

    The value of a "90 pct hit rate" can only be reasonably compared to a combination of other forecasting methods and random chance. Documentation of every prediction, wrong and right is essential.

  • I predict... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 19, 2010 @02:45AM (#31533540)

    I predict that the people who pay attention to geo-politics and have a decent grasp of historical parallels can make an awful lot of money accurately forcasting the future by pretending to rely on mysterious and magical/scientific means.

    We've never seen this sort of thing in history *cough cough astrology cough cough* have we?

    Care to buy my "game theory"? I can give you 90% accuracy, just ask my "independant" buddies at the CIA... after all, what do they know about future political events? ;)

  • by SerpentMage (13390) <ChristianHGross&yahoo,ca> on Friday March 19, 2010 @04:33AM (#31533818)

    I read part of his book since his book uses what one would call behavioral economics. A very interesting field. What I don't like about him is that he manipulates (read the book). And as such believes that manipulation is everything. I stopped reading half way because I hated his style. That is his flaw since not everybody can be manipulated. People can act irrationally. That he does not account for in his model, and is what I would think is a major flaw. It is sort of like saying, "Greece will be bailed out, Greece will be bailed out" Why? Because that the logical choice and would be according to this guy who does predictions.

    What they all forget is Germany... Germany is now saying, "hey Greece head over to the IMF" It is at that point the financial community says, "ooops..." But if you are investing money it is a big f****g oops! And that big f****g oops is what causes financial companies to loose money...

  • by jandersen (462034) on Friday March 19, 2010 @09:28AM (#31535696)

    Why would you assume that the first thing anybody with a good idea would do, is to go and make money from it? Things like altruism and curiosity for its own sake are arguably some of the traits that make humans "human"; and there are many things that are much more interesting and satisfying than money.

    That aside, the purpose of game theory as such is to predict the behaviour of systems, so it isn't so surprising that they achieve some success. The big problem, as far as I can see, is to create a model that is realistic enough, pretty much like when you predict the weather, although the method is different. And then you have to know which questions to ask, since the answer may well be something like "42".

    Prediction is not actually that difficult in itself; you do it every day when you say things like "Tomorrow I will go to a meeting" - and sure enough, next day you do go to a meeting. This is trivial, of course, but that is all there is to it; the rest is down to how many data you have and whether you are able to take it all into account.

    And that, funny enough, is why using a techique like Tarot or I Ching can sometimes be amazingly effective. When you lay out Tarot cards, it is of course entirely random, but that is exactly why it works; because when you try to think about the consequences of some important problem, you are likely focusing too strongly on only a part of the available data, and trying to interpret the random set of images you've laid out breaks you out of the box you have created for yourself - it is, in effect, a form of brainstorming.

  • by JesseMcDonald (536341) on Friday March 19, 2010 @12:30PM (#31539690) Homepage

    Human behavior isn't random, but it is chaotic in the context of competition. One can predict the result easily enough when there are no conflicting self-interests, as in your example, but that predictability disappears as soon as you try to influence the outcome in a way one or more of the individuals involved perceives as not being in their favor.

    If all you want to do is model non-coerced and purely cooperative human behavior then that won't be an issue, but most behavioral economists find themselves employed in the development of political policies which are intended to change others' behavior. The chaotic nature of competition makes the long-term outcome of such measures impossible to predict; this phenomenon is observed all the time, and goes by the name "Law of Unintended Consequences".

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